Horror on TV: The Veil Episode 8 “Summer Heat” (dir by George Waggner)


On tonight’s episode of The Veil.

There’s been a murder!  Or has there?  Edward Paige (Henry Bartell) swears that he saw someone murdered in a nearby apartment but, when the police investigate, they discover that the apartment appears to be totally deserted.  Still convinced that he saw something, Edward is sent for a psychiatric evaluation from Dr. Mason (Boris Karloff, playing a sympathetic role for once).  Dr. Mason says that Edward’s not making it up.  Edward swears that he saw something.  But what?

This is a pretty good episode.  Think of it as being Rear Window with an extra twist.  Boris Karloff hosts as well as co-stars.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: The Veil 1.2 “Girl on the Road” (dir by George Waggner)


From 1958, it’s The Veil!

The Veil was a horror anthology series that, because of financial difficulties at Hal Roach Studios, were never actually aired on television.  10 episodes were filmed before production was abruptly canceled.  Each episode was hosted by (and often starred) Boris Karloff.  Karloff later stated that he was never actually paid for his work on the show but his work as the host did eventually lead to him being hired to host Thriller, a horror anthology series that eventually did air.

As for The Veil, the ten episodes that were produced were never actually sold to a network but, in the 60s, several episodes were edited together to create films that aired on late night television.  It wasn’t until the 90s that the episodes were actually released on video.  For that, we largely have Something Weird Video to thank.

Each episode of The Veil opened with Karloff promising the lift the veil on a strange, perhaps supernatural, event.  (Most of the stories were supposedly based on true stories.)  Karloff would also play a role in each episode.  For instance, in tonight’s episode, he plays Morgan Debs.

Tonight’s episode is called Girl on the Road.  It’s a nicely atmospheric tale about a man (Tod Andrews) who picks up a mysterious woman (Eve Brent) who is stranded on the side of the road.  What is the woman’s secret and why is she terrified of Morgan Debs?  Why does everyone in the town refuse to talk about her?  Watch to find out!

This episode was directed by George Waggner, who is perhaps best known for directing the original Wolf Man.

Enjoy!

Horror Scenes I Love: Larry Talbot Discovers His Fate in The Wolf Man


Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1941’s The Wolf Man.

In this scene, poor, unfortunate Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr) visits a gypsy camp and learns that sad truth of his fate from Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya).  I love this scene not only for the iconic dialogue but also for George Waggner’s atmospheric direction and Maria Ouspenskaya’s performance.  Even Lon Chaney, Jr. gives it his all in this scene.  Larry Talbot may have been a dumb lug but he was our dumb lug!

Halloween Havoc!: HORROR ISLAND (Universal 1941)


cracked rear viewer

Universal Pictures kept cranking out the horrors, but HORROR ISLAND isn’t one of them. It’s as misleading a title as Hollywood ever produced, more of a comedy/mystery with some “old dark house” elements thrown in for good measure. This little ‘B’ was released as a double feature with MAN MADE MONSTER, and while its good for what it is, it ain’t horror!

Atmospherically directed by George Waggner and shot by Universal workhorse Woody Bredell , HORROR ISLAND  begins spookily enough with a peg-legged sailor trodding the docks attacked by the mysterious Phantom. Rescued from the briny water by hard-pressed for cash entrepreneur Bill Martin and his pal Stuff Oliver, we learn the sailor is Tobias Clump, a Spaniard who claims he has half a map of Sir Henry Morgan’s buried treasure – and The Phantom just stole the other half! Bill happens to have inherited Morgan’s Island, where twenty…

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Halloween Havoc!: MAN MADE MONSTER (Universal 1941)


cracked rear viewer

Lon Chaney Jr.  made his first foray into Universal Horror with MAN MADE MONSTER, the movie that led to his studio contract and immortality with THE WOLF MAN . Both films were directed by George Waggner, who also wrote the script here under the pseudonym Joseph West. Lon’s large and in charge as the electrical monster, but top billing and acting honors go to Hollywood’s maddest of mad doctors, the great Lionel Atwill .

A bus crashes into high tension wires on a rain slicked highway, leaving all aboard dead save one. He’s Dan McCormick, a carny performer known as ‘Dynamo Dan, The Electric Man’. His seeming imperviousness to electricity piques the interest of scientist Professor Lawrence, who invites the jovial Dan to stay with him and his young niece June. Lawrence wants to run some experimental tests on Dan, but when he leaves for a medical convention his assistant…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Special George Waggner Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director: George Waggner!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Horror Island (1941, dir by George Waggner)

Man-Made Monster (1941, dir by George Waggner)

The Wolf Man (1941, dir by George Waggner)

Red Nightmare (1957, dir by George Waggner)

 

4 Shots From Horror History: Dr. Cyclops, The Wolf Man, Cat People, I Walked With A Zombie


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the first few years of 1940s.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dr. Cyclops (1940, dir by Ernest B. Schoedsack)

Dr. Cyclops (1940, dir by Ernest B. Schoedsack)

The Wolf Man (1941, dir by George Waggner)

The Wolf Man (1941, dir by George Waggner)

Cat People (1943, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

Cat People (1942, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

I Walked With A Zombie (1943, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

I Walked With A Zombie (1943, dir by Jacques Tourneur)

Horror Film Review: The Wolf Man (dir by George Waggner)


the-wolfman

“Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night;

May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

— Gypsy Poem, The Wolf Man (1941)

Poor Larry Talbot.

We all know his story, of course.  The plot of the original Wolf Man is so iconic and has been imitated in so many other films that, even if you somehow have never seen the original 1941 film, you still know what happened.

Larry (played by Lon Chaney, Jr.) is a loser.  When we first meet him, he is nervously returning to his childhood home in Wales.  (Chaney doesn’t sounds at all Welsh nor does he sounds like he’s from any other part of the UK for that matter, but that’s not really important.)  Larry’s older brother has recently died and Larry hopes that maybe he can reconcile with his father, Sir John (Claude Rains).  Larry’s brother was the favored son, the one who lived up to the Talbot name and made his father proud.  Larry, on the other hand, hasn’t really succeeded at anything he’s ever done.  To use the slang of the time, Larry comes across as basically being a lug.  A big dumb lug.

After discovering that his father really doesn’t seem to want to have much to do with him, Larry goes for a stroll through the nearby village.  He buys a silver-headed walking stick, mostly so he can flirt with the salesgirl, Gwen (Evelyn Ankers).  It turns out that there’s a gypsy camp nearby.  What better place to go on a date!?

Well, perhaps Larry should have just invited her to the movies.  Not only does a fortune teller (Maria Ouspenskaya) see something terrible in his future but Larry ends up getting bitten by what appears to be a wolf.  The good news is that Larry was bitten while saving the life of one of Gwen’s friends, which is certainly going to make him look like good boyfriend material.  The bad news is that the wolf was actually the fortune teller’s son, Bela (played by none other than Bela Lugosi).  It turns out that Bela was a werewolf and now, Larry’s going to be a werewolf too!

Larry, needless to say, is not happy about this.  But then again, Larry wasn’t happy before he became the werewolf either.  Lon Chaney, Jr. played Larry Talbot in five different movies and I don’t think he smiled once.  I guess that’s understandable, seeing as how he was a werewolf.  In every film in which he appeared, Larry would beg someone to kill him and put him out of his misery.  And, in every sequel, Larry would somehow be brought back to life and have to go through it all over again.  I guess he earned the right to be a little glum.

But still, even before he’s bitten in The Wolf Man, Larry is kind of a boring character.  The only time that he’s interesting is when he’s a wolf man.  And really, he’s a far more successful werewolf than human.  When we first meet Larry, he apologizing to his father for never living up to his expectations.  But once Larry turns into the Wolf Man, he finally manages to get things done.  When he’s the wolf man, Larry has the inner drive that he lacks as a human.

To me, the heart of The Wolf Man is not to be found in Chaney’s glum performance.  Instead, it’s in Claude Rains’s performance as John.  When we first meet Sir John, he seems like a rather imposing figure but, over the course of this 70 minute film, John slowly lowers his guard.  We discover that he’s actually a loving father and there’s something rather sweet about watching as he slowly welcomes Larry back into his life.  Of course, it all ends in tragedy.  These things often do.

Everything, from the set design to shadowy cinematography to the hard-working fog machine (which keeps the moors looking properly creepy) to the performances of Claude Rains and Maria Ouspenskaya, comes together to make The Wolf Man into a genuine classic of horror cinema.  And, of course, I have to mention the brilliant makeup job that was done to transform Chaney into The Wolf Man.  

Still, I have to wonder — why did Lugosi turn into an actual wolf while Chaney turned into this?

wm

Oh well, it probably doesn’t matter.  Just relax and enjoy the damn film, as a wise person somewhere once said.  Be sure to watch The Wolf Man this holiday season!

A Blast From The Past: Red Nightmare (directed by George Waggner)


Hi there!  Happy Labor Day!

Now, I have to be honest.  I’m not really sure what the point of Labor Day is.  I have no idea what we’re supposed to be celebrating today.  I’ve got the day off, which seems kind of unfair when you consider that people who have far worse jobs than me — i.e., the actual laborers — are having to work.

Like many Americans, I spent this weekend hanging out with my extended family.  On Sunday, I did a poll of every cousin, aunt, uncle, sister, niece, and nephew that I could find and almost every single one of them agreed with me that Labor Day sounded like something tedious that Jesse Myerson would come up with and then demand that everyone celebrate.  In short, it sounded communistic.

So, with that in mind, I think the best way to start out Labor Day would be by watching this educational film from 1962.  In Red Nightmare, Jerry Donavon (Jack Kelly) takes his freedom for granted.  So, Jack Webb shows up and casts a magic spell, which causes Jerry to have a dream about what it would be like to live in a communist society.  In fact, you could even say that Jack Webb gives Jerry a red nightmare!

So, there’s two ways to review a film like Red Nightmare.  We can either debate the film’s politics and get into a big discussion about economics and policy and all that crap and OH MY GOD, doesn’t that just sound perfectly tedious?  Or, we can simply enjoy Red Nightmare for what it is, a histrionic but sincere time capsule of what was going on in the psyche of 1962 America.

Red Nightmare!  Watch it before getting brainwashed by Labor Day!